Children and families are being housed in a shelter in Deming, NM, while they wait to go to their sponsor families.
The border crisis hits home, literally.
Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, there is a lot I love about my home state: rich culture and history, breathtaking sunsets and our amazing cuisine. But most of all, I am proud of my fellow New Mexicans for their open hearts. New Mexico is large geographically, but small in population. The joke is that rather than six degrees of separation, it’s actually two degrees here – everyone knows everyone.
Though Albuquerque is my hometown, I attended New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, less than an hour drive from the busy Paso del Norte port of entry to Juarez, Mexico. As a student reporter at the NPR member station housed at NMSU, I reported on a dance studio opening in an orphanage in Juarez. It’s not an exaggeration to say that reporting on that one story changed my life. Dance classes are often out of reach for people living in poverty. Seeing the way a new leotard and a lesson on the proper way to jeté could change a kid’s life inspired my career path toward helping others.
Advocating for and supporting thousands of families who have crossed the southern U.S. border is exactly the type of work that changes lives. As the number of border crossings have increased, Customs and Border Patrol has begun releasing hundreds of families per day in Deming and Las Cruces. So far, the city of Deming has helped transition 7,000 people. For context, the population of Deming is 14,000. It is one of the poorest towns in one of the poorest states in the nation.
I had the incredible privilege to visit the fairgrounds in Deming where volunteers support asylum seekers with food, clothing, shelter and health screenings before they travel to their designated sponsor in the U.S. Outside the shelter, a group of young men played a rambunctious game of soccer. Inside, a new group arrived, several of them small children. The kids noticed the Child Friendly Space set up by Save the Children, and were instantly attracted to the toys, books and art supplies. Both parents and kids had huge smiles on their faces because for the first time in their long journey, the parents could lay down on a cot and rest, knowing their kids were safe and happy, being kids.
In the shelters, there was a sense of hope in the air because this was the last stop before families move on to live with their sponsor while awaiting their court dates.
But not all asylum seekers are currently experiencing shelters like these. There are unaccompanied children in U.S. custody right now at risk of losing programs that support them in overcoming trauma: soccer, math and English instruction and legal aid. We have the power to change this.